How many times has your padoswali aunty asked you about your marriage plans? How many times a distant relative has come over to your parents with a ‘good rishta’? Have you ever found yourself surrounded by married women who insisted that marriage and motherhood are the two most important things in a woman's life? Have you been constantly questioned about career and family plans? You are not alone, millions of young men and women suffer the insufferable intrusion that our society feels it is entitled to inflict on our lives. When will society stop moral policing us and offering unsolicited advice?
It cannot be denied that our society acts as a meddler in disguise of being our well-wisher. It appoints itself as a guide to women, urging them to follow a path of morally correct existence. You might have seen how a woman in our society is subjected to unsolicited advice and shaming even from people she doesn’t even know. Almost everyone she meets is ready with a list of things that are dangerous for her as a woman and things that can ensure a good life in future.
While giving advice on what is right and wrong is not necessarily misplaced. The advice usually comes out of concern for women. But the problem arises when the advice becomes patriarchal order and acceptance of it is seen as a sign of morality. Those who voice their objection are labelled characterless, shameless and whatnot.
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But is it fair for society to pass judgements on women based on whether they follow social dictates or not? Must women always go through the torture of being questioned and criticised about their lifestyle? Don’t women have the right to live as they want? Don’t they have the right to privacy? A famous Hindi adage rightly says- Suno sabki, karo dil ki. Similarly, women are not obliged to follow or even answer the queries of the people around them. It is their choice what is right for them.
The problem is, people have even internalised the problems that come with following these dictates. A married woman will criticise an unmarried woman for her choice to remain single, even if she is in an unhappy relationship. Another will not think twice before badmouthing young women for their clothing choices, even if she resents her own family for mandating that she wear a saree everyday. Homemakers criticise working moms for being an absentee parent, despite not having the financial independence that comes with a career.
If only people knew how to mind their own business and focus on betterment of their lives, than ensuring that others' terms of existence are similar to their own. Whether they are happy or not is no one's concern. But our gaze at life is what needs to change, the focus should not be on living by norms, or living to appease the society, but to life for happiness.
Policing is not the answers to crimes against women. If advice to women stems from concern, then society needs to focus on male behaviour, rather than that of women. If it cannot, then perhaps it should mind its own business, rather than putting its nose where it doesn't belong. Policing and shaming women for their choices only makes them resent society.
Views expressed are the author's own.